BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) _ Some blacks who watched Senate Republican leader Trent Lott apologize on Black Entertainment Television about remarks perceived as racially insensitive said they found his remorse unconvincing.
Some said the embattled senator’s latest apologies Monday did not sound heartfelt, and that he should not become Senate majority leader in the next Congress.
“He said what he felt like he was supposed to say. He’s on the ropes,” said Beverly Greene, 42, who gathered with friends to watch Lott on BET. “It didn’t feel like to me he was going to make a wholesale change to his life and begin to embrace all people.”
In the 30-minute BET interview, Lott said he had made a “terrible mistake, used horrible words.”
But, he said, “it is about actions more than words. As majority leader I can move an agenda that would hopefully be helpful to African-Americans and minorities of all kinds and all Americans.”
Greene and other blacks said they were skeptical.
“I’m not sure from his record that anything at this point would have been good enough,” said Tsan Abrahamson, 39, a lawyer who watched the interview with Greene. “I certainly accept his apology, but I don’t believe he’s changed.”
The Senate GOP is set to meet Jan. 6 to decide whether Lott’s leadership of their majority could be too much of a liability to their agenda in Congress and to President Bush’s re-election.
A furor erupted over Lott’s Dec. 5 comment during a toast for Sen. Strom Thurmond in which he said the nation might have been better off if then pro-segregationist Thurmond had been elected president when he ran in 1948.
Civil rights leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kweisi Mfume have both demanded that Lott step down.
Movie director Spike Lee called on prominent blacks in the administration, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to speak out.
“Going to let some guy say something like that and you’re not going to say a word?” Lee said Tuesday on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” “They are prominent African-Americans and they haven’t said peep.”
Some conservatives, including members of Project 21, a leadership network for conservative blacks, also have said Lott should be removed from his leadership position.
Utz McKnight, a visiting African American studies professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said Lott should have given BET viewers more specifics about what he has done and will do to benefit blacks.
“Besides the lip service to certain types of things, he didn’t go the extra distance,” said McKnight, 40. “He did not commit himself.”
Retired adult education consultant Juliet Crutchfield agreed.
“He talked about developing a plan,” said Crutchfield, 61. “He didn’t ever describe what the plan would be.”
Justin Glenn, a 24-year-old University of San Francisco law student, said the firestorm that has erupted over Lott’s remarks should “make the Republican party take a serious look at the individuals they choose to represent them.”